Our company is growing and evolving on a day to day basis. Our primary purpose is the standardization of the full-charge bookkeeping cycle, which has moving parts that vary by industry and client needs. Bookkeeping has multiple options; the challenge is to define best practices and choose the one best for the company. At first, we added to the process manual for each role within the company. We made sure the processes had accountability points where a person outside of the process would be aware if it weren’t completed or proper. Our manuals became robust, and there was no way to ensure that the staff members in a given role had a working understanding of all the material. We applied these tools for knowledge management, and our knowledge share is now more efficient and exciting than ever:
Training Videos – We created a series of training videos to help orient new staff members or those entering into a new role within the company. They are supported by outlines on which we require our trainees to make notes and give them to their supervisor. This does the following: we are reaching the visual and written learners, we are ensuring that videos are being watched all the way through, and we are mining information about the content and the trainee. If we keep seeing the same questions pop-up on those outline notes about a given subject, we know we need to improve our training in that area. If we see inconsistent or off-subject notes, we know that the trainee cannot learn this way, be meticulous, or stay on point – all indications that the role may not be a good fit for them.
Testing & Continuing Education – After they have watched all the videos and taken one long read through the process manual that applies to their role, we give them an open book test. All the answers are searchable within the manual, and this practice helps us to get their head into the manual, using it as a reference guide and bringing attention to the details of critical processes. Since our process manuals are continually evolving, continuing internal education is critical. Our staff answers a quick set of continuing education questions every month that set them up for success in their roles. Some processes occur once a year, so the continuing education questions are a great way to refresh their knowledge about how to handle seasonal tasks properly. Of course, we also include questions about the new or changed processes, so they come to attention. This has been effective for reducing requests for support in tasks that are already outlined in the manual, increasing our staff efficiency.
Management Brainstorming – We have five levels of accountability within our company: Data Entry, Bookkeepers, Controllers, Operations, and Executive staff. At all levels, we have talented, experienced, and highly educated people who love the company and want to see us become more valuable, more efficient, and more effective in the market we serve. I believe that executive staff who do not recognize the talent of their team and instead ‘dictate from on high’ miss out on great feedback and have a hard time creating the passion that fuels collaboration and personal responsibility. If a staff member is always carrying out someone else’s wishes and doesn’t have the opportunity and encouragement to share their thoughts and ideas, they won’t be excited about their workplace. We offer a forum for brainstorming where our management level team members air concerns, discuss potential solutions, work through processes that aren’t working, and discover untapped opportunities. Our non-management staff is recognized when they bring a good idea to the attention of management, and they get a bonus if implemented in part or whole.
These strategies have drastically improved knowledge management within our small business environment, and they are affordable – we were able to create all our training and tests in-house, by the people who are closest to work. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive to be effective.
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